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Evading and Escaping the Japanese

Bob Stahl

Publication Year: 2001

" When the Japanese Imperial Forces invaded the Philippine Islands at the onset of World War II, they quickly rounded up Allied citizens on Luzon and imprisoned them as enemy aliens. These captured civilians were treated inhumanely from the start, and news of the atrocities committed by the enemy soon spread to the more remote islands to the south. Hearing this, many of the expatriates living there refused to surrender as their islands were occupied. Fugitives , based on the memoir of Jordan A. Hamner, tells the true story of a young civilian mining engineer trapped on the islands during the Japanese invasion. Instead of surrendering, he and two American co-workers volunteered their services to the Allied armed forces engaged in the futile effort to stave off the enemy onslaught. When the overwhelmed defenders surrendered to the invaders, the three men fled farther into the disease-ridden mountainous jungle. After nearly a year of nomadic wandering, they found a derelict, twenty-one foot long lifeboat in a secluded coastal bay. Hoping to sail to freedom in Australia, the trio converted the craft into a sailboat, and called it the “Or Else.” They would make it to Australia—or else. With only a National Geographic magazine map of the Malacca Islands for navigation, Hamner, his two compatriots, and two Filipino crewmen sailed their unseaworthy craft fifteen hundred nautical miles over seas controlled by the Japanese navy, touching land only briefly to replenish meager rations or evade enemy vessels. After thirty perilous days at sea, marked by nearly disastrous encounters with hostile islanders, imminent starvation, and tropical storms, the desperate fugitives reached the welcome shores of Australia.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v

List of Maps

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-x

Little recorded in history are the events in the lives of the expatriates, mostly American, employed by the various industries and the government in the Philippine Islands. Doctors, nurses, educators, accountants, engineers, lumbermen, agriculturalists, governmental administrators, and a host of other specialists have been drawn to the Philippines ever since the Spanish-American War. ...

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pp. xi-xiii

On the morning of 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the United States military and naval forces in the Hawaiian Islands, leaving them in complete disarray. A few hours later, across the international date line in the Philippine Islands, they destroyed the U.S. Army Air Corps at Clark Field, Luzon, on 8 December. ...

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pp. 1-3

That night we were hit by a series of squalls that came from nowhere. We dropped the sail and rolled free on large waves. Charlie Smith and Catalina took shelter from the rain below deck in the tiny cabin. Chick, Lakibul, and I huddled under ponchos on deck, with Lakibul at the tiller. ...

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1. Manila

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pp. 5-11

Although the trip from Los Angeles to Manila on the S.S. Annie Johnson was uneventful, I did not look upon it as a relaxing ocean cruise. Good food, swimming in a twenty-foot-square canvas pool on the afterdeck, lying on a deck chair while sipping drinks which got more and more tropical as we moved closer and closer to the equator kept me occupied. ...

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2. Masbate

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pp. 12-21

The Argus was small, dirty, and burned soft coal, the smoke and soot finding its way into every crevice. She steamed out of the harbor and across the bay, then through the North Channel minefield in a mammaduck-and-goslings file with several other ships under the guidance of an escort yacht. ...

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3. Evacuation

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pp. 22-28

New Year's Day dawned bright and sunny, a holiday at the mine. We all lazed about, not talking very much. In the afternoon, several Japanese planes flew low overhead, by now a very common occurrence. With nothing to do and nothing happening, we all went to bed early, depressed and worried. ...

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4. Back to the Mine

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pp. 29-43

The next morning Ken Hanson and I found a car and driver to take us back to the mine. Undet decided to stay at Cawayan. The vehicle was a battered and beaten mid-1920s vintage, seven-passenger Packard touring car that had long ago been stripped of its cloth top and the collapsible tubular framework which had supported it. ...

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5. Panay

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pp. 44-51

For two weeks we spent most of our time at Capiz, with occasional short trips to Iloilo on the south coast of the island. Life was slow and easy. We were away from the stress that had been our daily regimen on Masbate. I appreciated being on an island where there was a semblance of a military force on my side of the confrontation. ...

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6. Mindanao

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pp. 52-68

Our landing on Mindanao was not skillfully executed. It was the darkest of nights and we sailed directly into a large fish trap in the shallow waters of Dapitan Bay. We spent over an hour poling the boat this way and that before finding our way through the maze. ...

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7. Into the Jungle

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pp. 69-92

Charlie Smith finished destroying the concrete dock at Iligan just as several Japanese freighters rose over the horizon and headed into the bay. A rather large but dilapidated wooden bodega stood on timber piles a short distance from the destroyed dock. It extended about twenty feet past the low water mark toward the bay. ...

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8. Preparing to Sail

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pp. 93-99

The town of Labangan, about five miles northeast of Pagadian, proved to be a better place to stay for a while, for we were able to take up residence in a portion of a rice mill operated by a Chinese family. Our living area was a second floor loft normally used for storage of sacks of rice, but now empty. ...

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9. To Australia

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pp. 100-123

With Charlie Smith at the helm, we headed southeast from Labangan toward the Moro Gulf. It soon became evident that the molave plank was a barely adequate substitute for a keel, for the Or Else tended to heel over quite far, even if the wind was moderate. ...

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10. Brisbane

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pp. 124-133

The next morning, 4 January 1943, we boarded an Australian navy corvette for the short ride to Darwin. She was returning to port after a tough battle against the Japanese in the vicinity of Timor, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, where she had suffered considerable damage and lost several members of her crew. ...

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pp. 135-137

In May 1943, Capt. Jordan Hamner led a six-man team to Tawitawi Island, off the northeast coast of Borneo. As one of many AlB penetration parties inserted into the enemy-held islands in the South Pacific his team's mission was to establish a coast-watching post and to report by radio to the AlB's station in Australia...

Appendix: War Department Letter

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pp. 139

Further Reading

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pp. 141-143

E-ISBN-13: 9780813170800
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813122243

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2001